Just call her Your Honor.
As company manager of “Amaluna” – a dazzling new touring production from Cirque du Soleil – Jamie Reilly says, “I have many hats, and it looks to the outside world like I’m the mayor of a small village.”
That village will be rolling into Queens right near Citi Field next spring when “Amaluna” makes its Big Apple bow. And you can be sure that it takes a village to create a village – 112 artists and employees representing 16 countries. Those ranks swell with some 150 locals during the eight days it takes to set up the 2,600-seat big top, the concession tents, artistic tent, box office, administrative offices and kitchen and the two and a half days it takes to dismantle them.
“I’ve been doing this for 12 years and I’m always amazed at how efficiently it’s done,” Reilly says.
If that’s impressive, well, then, so are Cirque du Soleil’s 19 different shows, which actually range from A (“Alegría”) to Z (“Zumanity’) with stops at The Beatles and Michael Jackson in between. For the uninitiated, Cirque du Soleil was created in 1984 by accordionist, stilt-walker and fire-eater Guy Laliberté, who had founded Quebec’s first internationally recognized circus. Laliberté’s idea was to take the circus to its logical extreme.
“One of the beautiful things is we have all the acrobatic elements of the traditional circus, but we go beyond acrobatics,” Reilly says. “We have a story line.”
It’s a point underscored by “Amaluna,” which takes its cue from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” and is directed by Diane Paulus, artistic director of American Repertory Theater, whose recent work for ART includes “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess” and “Prometheus Bound,” a musical based on Aeschylus’ play.
“Diane brings the theater to the circus,” Reilly says.
Here she has a gender-bending take on one of the Bard’s most beloved works to play with. The mysterious island that is the setting is ruled not by the magician Prospero but by the queen Prospera, aided by various goddesses, and, as the title suggests, the cycles of the moon. (The cast is 70 percent female.) There is, however, always a little yang to the yin in the form of a group of young men who are tossed up on the island by a Prospera-induced storm. One of them, the stalwart Romeo – who seems to have wandered in from another Shakespeare play – falls in love with Prospera’s daughter, Miranda. But young love must be tested before it has its way.
One of those tests comes in the dance of “1,000 Arms and Sticks.” Inspired by an Indonesian ritual, the silver- and black-clad company, wearing long gloves with painted nails, aligns to create the image of a woman with 1,000 arms. During the enchantment, the Peacock Goddess spirits Miranda away, leaving Romeo to journey to the Underworld through a forest of sticks that recalls a Vietnamese circus tradition.
“It’s my favorite,” Reilly says of the sequence.
Still, “Amaluna” is not all dance theater. There are some old-fashioned and newfangled acrobatics as well, such as an uneven bars routine right out of women’s gymnastics, a first for a Cirque du Soleil show.
The circus’ esprit de corps is one thing, however, that will never change. So if there’s snow on the roof of the big top, it’s all hands on deck, including the company manager, who knows how to wield a shovel.
“Everyone goes out of his way to ensure we put on the best show we can,” Reilly says.
The show’s currently in Minneapolis before heading to San Francisco and San Jose, where it will winter before arriving in New York in April. That’s a lot of time on the road.
“I’m very passionate about the show and the company,” Reilly says. “But what the show teaches is balance.”
The cast and crew of “Amaluna” travel with two full-time physiotherapists and hire a local Pilates instructor and masseuse in each city they travel to. Meanwhile, Reilly heads to the gym a few times a week for some “me time.” She also takes time for a mani-pedi, “though not as much as I’d like to.”
But when she can, she says, “I’m the first one in the spa chair.”
For more on “Amaluna,” visit cirquedusoleil.com.